UNITED NATIONS — Russia's U.N. ambassador said Thursday there is a real prospect of a terrorist state springing up from Syria's second-largest city Aleppo to Iraq's capital Baghdad.
Vitaly Churkin pointed to the rapid advance of al-Qaida-inspired terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who are active in Syria and have crossed the border and captured a large swath of Iraqi territory.
Churkin, the current president of the U.N. Security Council, said he told the 14 other council members that a terrorist state "is a very, very serious prospect" that the council needs to address "because really we are lagging behind ... in our responses."
He told a news conference that one reason Russia is supporting the Syrian government is Moscow's belief that if President Bashar Assad's government was to fall apart right now "it's the terrorists who are going to take over."
"We are trying to make sure that (ISIL) is not going to take over Damascus, which could be a real prospect under some circumstances," Churkin said.
He said one of the sources of financing for terrorists is the illegal sale of oil and there are many reports that ISIL is selling oil from captured fields which various companies are buying through intermediaries.
Russia wants the Security Council to address this issue and Churkin said he will soon circulate a draft presidential statement to council members aimed at preventing terrorists from selling Iraqi and Syrian oil to finance their illegal activities.
He noted that in March, the Security Council condemned the illicit export of crude oil from Libya and authorized U.N. member states to board suspect vessels and return illegally seized oil to the Libyan government.
The council acted three days after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos seized a tanker off Cyprus containing Libyan oil that a militia controlling the country's oil terminals was trying to export in defiance of the central government.
Churkin said that in hindsight the Syrian opposition may have made a mistake in not accepting the Syrian government's offer to tackle terrorism first at talks in Geneva earlier this year and then discuss a transitional government. If the government and opposition had agreed to set up a joint committee to fight terrorism, "that could have become a nucleus of this transitional body," he said.
Churkin said the United States and Russia, which spearheaded the Geneva talks, should press for new political negotiations to end the Syrian conflict, "keeping in mind the new dimension of terrorist threat."